Nelapattu Bird Sanctuary

A nice weekend outing near Chennai

Many of us lament that unlike Delhi, Bangalore or even Trivandrum Chennai has fewer options for weekend outings near the city.

On closer examination, I find several options ex-Chennai which are not well known or well presented by the authorities and enthusiasts.

One such is the Nelapattu bird sanctuary in Andhra Pradesh which is a little over hundred kilometres from Chennai.

Along with 3 NRI friends (birders &  photographers), I visited this place recently and was happy with the experience.

From Chennai hit the Madhavaram roundabout and take the Calcutta Highway.  Getting into the Andhra Pradesh border you cross Tada and Sullurpeta.  Just after the toll booth, take a right turn under the flyover. There is a railway line to cross after which you take a left turn into a village road. One kilometre down this road you can see the gate of the Sanctuary on the left.

The Sanctuary is open from 8 a.m. till 5 p.m.

Entry ticket for adults is Rs. 25. Camera Rs.100 Binoculars Rs.50. Car parking Rs.100.

The car can go inside up to the tourist Centre parking lot. On the way, we could see a Deer Park and a few cottages under construction. The Sanctuary has an area of about 400 hectares In the middle is water body which with its trees form the centre for the Birds to flock and roost.

There is a well-designed path about 500 mtrs long encircling the pond with convenient viewing Towers.

Being a weekday there were hardly any other visitors and we had the entire area to ourselves. I can imagine the crowd during weekends with school children, picnickers, tourists and others besides serious enthusiasts.

The Sanctuary is famous as the largest Pelicanary. Besides pelicans, there are several aquatic birds including open-billed storks, ibises, herons, and egrets. {see photographs}

A view of the Nelapattu sanctuary
A view of the Nelapattu sanctuary
A pelican in flight
A pelican in flight

Even in February, it was quite warm and we carried our own water. The centre had provided mineral water bubble tops at various places. And there were signs of a small canteen and a tuck shop.

 

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List of birds at Nalapattu Bird Sanctuary

 

The Calcutta Highway (GNT) is fairly good but be prepared for speed breakers, barricades, and traffic indiscipline., There aren’t many options by way of restaurants on the way unlike the Chennai-Trichy and Chennai-Bengaluru highways. If you are fussy about food, better carry with you as we senior citizens did. We supplemented it with some snacks on the way.

The staff at the centre were very friendly and ready with information. Being the first week of February there were lots of birds. A few weeks later, it may not be the case.

We got quite a lot of good frames and were overall happy with the experience.

On the way back we went into the Sriharikota Road through the Sullurpet town hoping to see more birds especially flamingos but we were disappointed. We just had a glimpse of the Sriharikota Gate and some egrets and herons in the receding backwaters and saline marshland. Pulicat Bird Sanctuary Information Centre which was partially closed informed us that we were too late as the birds left in January.

 

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Amma Veedu

Amma veedu seen form another amma veedu

Amma veedu seen from another amma veedu

Amma veedus are the palatial houses where the minor queens or the consorts of the Travancore king used to stay. There are still a few  amma veedus in the West Fort area of Trivandrum. One of these has been tastefully converted into a fine dining restaurant.

The house in the image is opposite that restaurant, taken from its second-floor window.

Surprising find in heart of Delhi

A historical town like Delhi can throw up surprises. One such surprise to me was the Agrasen ki Baoli. It is situated on Hailey lane a kilometer from CP but still under the shadows of its multi-storey buildings.

Agrasen ki Baoli
Agrasen ki Baoli

This was believed to have been built by king Ugrasen of the Mahabharat era but rebuilt by the Agrawal community in the14th century. It is about 60 m long and 15 M wide. It has about 100 steps.

The main well shaft opens out to the sky and there was no water when I visited. The rubble and stone masonry is well preserved (probably recently renovated).

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Unlike the step wells of Gujarat,this  has no sculptures.

Agrasen ki Baoli
Agrasen ki Baoli

There were hardly any tourists when I visited but many young students and couples. The monument became more popular thanks to a controversial Hindi movie.

Agrasen ki Baoli
100 + steps

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It is real: not all bull

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Nonchalant Nandi  in a shop

In January 2015 on a visit to Varanasi, a curious sight caught our eyes. It was a bull squatting non chalantly in a textile showroom under a Shiva idol  while the  customers and the staff went about their business uninterrupted. We captured the image and moved on.

Only later we learnt that the bull visits the shop every day without fail. The locals attribute this to the Siva idol in the shop. Maybe the shopkeeper feeds the bull too. On holidays, the bull just hangs around outside. The shop is called Chikan House – Exclusive.

I have seen many social media posts of this bull and the shop. This post is only to assure that the bull’s visit is real and not all bull like many social media forwards. These images are taken by me. I can not, of course, vouch for the regularity  of the bull’s visit as I was there only for two days.

shiva's bull
Bull in a textile showroom
Nandi in a kurta shop
Chikan House – Exclusive. Kurta, pyjama,sarees, salwar suits, tops, and materials

There are episodes where the Nandi hides darshan of Shiva, but here is a situation where the Nandi provides not only unhindered darshan from the street but  uninterrupted business too.

There are a couple of YouTube videos  taken in 2011 and 2014. You may watch those too if you wish.

 

The Gates of Aurangabad

I came across the word ‘Darwaza’ when I entered  IIM, Ahmedabad in 1969.The city’s Lal Darwaza and Teen Darwaza were commercial centres as well as traffic hubs. I knew little about their historical significance.

During my summer job in Delhi in 1970, I became familiar with Ajmeri Gate and Kashmiri Gate and also Lahori Gate and Delhi(!) Gate. In fact, I was staying in a college hostel right on Ajmeri gate not far from the seamy quarters of this historical city.

Historically, these darwazas or gates have been integral parts of the fortified medieval cities. They aided in security and defence and also in collecting taxes and tolls.

In term of number of gates, Aurangabad tops the list with 52 gates. Of these 52, only 10 or 12 remain today. I could see and capture in my camera 5 or 6 of these during my visit last month.

The original name of the city was Khadki. it was the seat of power of Malik Amber, the Prime Minister of Murtaza Nizam of Ahmednagar. Some of the earliest gates (Bhadkal?) were built by him. His son who succeeded him renamed the city Fatehnagar. When the Mughals captured the city Aurangazeb was made the Viceroy by the Shah Jahan. Auraganzeb renamed it after himself – Aurangabad.

Delhi Darwaza
Delhi Darwaza (North)
Rangeen Gate
Rangeen Gate
Mahmud Darwaza at Panchakki
Mahmud Darwaza at Panchakki
Zafar Gate
Zafar Gate
Makkai Darwaza - Mecca Gate
Makkai Darwaza – Mecca Gate (West)